The Mine Health and Safety Act 29 of 1996 oversees mining health and safety in South Africa. Essentially, it is critical to understand the laws and regulations governing South Africa’s mining safety. The Act’s goals are to foster a health and safety culture, enforce the measures, and establish suitable channels for personnel, company, and government participation in safety and safety health issues (Republic of South Africa, 1996). Additionally, it seeks to establish constituent tripartite entities to assess laws, promote wellness, and strengthen properly targeted studies, as well as to provide efficient surveillance systems and audits and to promote training and development of human resources (Republic of South Africa, 1996). Finally, the Act establishes the option to reject work in hazardous conditions and identify risks and eliminate, control, and minimize them.
There have been several amendments to the MHSA 29 of 1996. The most recent one is the MHS Amendment Act 74 of 2008. Act 74 of 2008 aims to revise and reinforce the MHSA of 1996 and streamline the administrative mechanism for awarding fines (Republic of South Africa, 2009). Additionally, it strengthens offenses and punishments, replaces, adds, and removes ambiguities in some definitions and phrases, and makes essential revisions to guarantee compliance with other laws. Another change made to the law is the Skills Development Amendment Act 31 of 2003. The amendment’s primary goal was to clarify some expressions and change role definitions (Republic of South Africa, 2003). The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 was enacted in the previous year. The Act aims to allow for fair access to and sustainable growth of the country’s petroleum resources and address related issues (Republic of South Africa, 2002). Finally, the oldest modification to the guideline is The Mine Health and Safety Amendment Act 72 of 1997. According to the Republic of South Africa (1997), the bill aims to establish a system of fines and penalties and further control the tripartite entities’ operations.
Objectives of MHSA
MHSA was enacted to offer specialized legislation to guarantee the health and safety of people working in mines. Hence, this was considered the primary objective of MHSA and prioritized in all other objects of the Act. A healthy workplace requires a high level of safety. According to Mining Review Africa (2020), mines, in particular, are dangerous locations with a higher risk of large-scale environmental harm and human death than many other workplaces, making mine safety a constant concern. Nonetheless, mining does not have to be a dangerous activity. MHSA “requires employers and employees to identify hazards and eliminate, control and minimize the risks relating to health and safety at mines” (Republic of South Africa, 1996, p. 10). The industry’s death rate has decreased over time due to tight safety legislation and practice and safety equipment developments. Generally, even though the aim of zero harm has not yet been attained, various corporations continually strive for it by adhering to the MHSA guidelines.
MHSA also strives to affect the Nation’s public international law commitments for mine safety and health. Essentially, this ensures adequate surveillance and auditing systems, as well as inspections and probes. Following international standards is regarded to have several advantages, including cost savings via improved structures and procedures. Improvements in safety and quality also boost customer satisfaction. Therefore, these firms can access new markets because products and services may be compatible and acceptable.
MHSA also allows employees to participate in health and safety issues through health and safety representatives and mine safety committees. Essentially, it establishes efficient oversight of mine safety compliance, implements mine security measures, and conducts probes and investigations to enhance safe mine practices (Republic of South Africa, 1996). Recognizing and being aware of the surroundings is the first step in avoiding occupational injury or illness. Mineworkers should be educated on the dangers of excessive coal mine pollution exposure. Respiratory protection should be worn when working, installing equipment, or servicing items in risky areas. Additionally, medical surveillance and screening are also necessary. The overall goal of MHSA that must be prioritized is to promote: “a culture of health and safety in the mining industry; (ii). training in health and safety in the mining industry; and (iii). co-operation and consultation on health and safety between the State, employers, employees and their representatives” (Republic of South Africa, 1996, p. 11). Generally, mining businesses must design a control initiative, and supervisors must guarantee that all systems are operational during each shift.
A Safety Policy for the Modi Mine
People are at the top of Mgodi Mine’s policy objectives value list, and safe and healthy work procedures and processes are given the highest importance. The company’s business philosophies and practices are predicated on achieving “zero harm” outcomes. The values and business principles underpinned the safety policy, which serve as the minimal criteria for Mgodi. Mgodi expects all directors, executives, workers, and suppliers (“Accountable Persons”) to follow the policy’s safety requirements.
Mgodi Mine’s policy is to promote the safety of its customers, volunteers, personnel, and all guests to the premises, with the following goals in mind:
- We are devoted to following all applicable laws, guidelines, and regulations in the field of occupational health and safety (OHS). In the absence of such recommendations, best practices will be followed.
- We are dedicated to creating a work environment that promotes safety and health.
- From the executive level to the first-line supervisory level, line management is responsible for OHS management.
- We encourage employee participation and collaboration in applying the OHS principles to gain commitment.
- We empower the employees and their representatives to take responsibility for their safety and health and the safety and health of their coworkers and engage in inspections, audits, training, education, grievance processes, and the ability to appeal.
- We will guarantee that the workers and (where applicable) contractors receive sufficient health and safety training and personal protective equipment.
- We train Accountable Persons to reduce the risk of developing an occupational or endemic disease by following best practices.
- We pledge to provide all required resources and personal protective equipment to follow these standards.
- Deliberate violations of standards and procedures will not be tolerated or condoned.
- We have put in place safety management systems based on internationally accepted standards, and we will conduct periodic audits to see how effective they are.
- We complete the appropriate risk assessments to anticipate, reduce, and control potential hazards. Occupational dangers will be diminished, and initiative will be encouraged.
- We will undertake frequent performance assessments and evaluate the effects of our operating actions on the safety and health of our employees and others.
- We will exchange messages openly with stakeholders about safety and health issues.
- We shall ensure that staff at all levels have enough training and carry out their obligations.
Mgodi Mine has set up a whistleblowing hotline to allow Accountable Persons and other parties to anonymously report health and safety violations, dangers, and harmful work environments at corporate facilities. Those seeking to lodge a discreet complaint or raise a problem could dial +27 900-900-9000 from anywhere in the globe or email mgod[email protected]
Purpose and Objective
The purpose of risk assessment is to help employers, personnel, and other workplace stakeholders comprehend the obligations for risk evaluation and management in MHSA under the OHS Act. The objective of this risk assessment is to give instructions on how to:
- analyze workplace hazards and assign a risk level to them;
- regulate workplace hazards;
- ensure that the right workplace parties are involved in the required risk assessment and management processes;
- ensure that risk assessments are conducted regularly.
History and Legal Requirements
Mining has traditionally been one of the most hazardous professions. This is supported by Eurostat, the OECD, and national agencies MHSA in South Africa. These organizations’ papers outline the key risk groups and the consequences of their existence in mining plants. Reports on mining accidents detail the causes and circumstances of the incidents (Tubis et al., 2020). Therefore, this allows for developing standards for activities to improve mining workers’ health, public safety, and environmental conservation. Furthermore, the value placed on the risks connected with mining operations is influenced by the fact that it is one of the most dangerous industries and the extent of mining activities.
As part of the review, in 1996, the government of South Africa established MHSA guidelines on the roles of employees, employers and other stakeholders in ensuring health and safety at all times. According to section 11 of MHSA, “every employer must- (a) identify the hazards to health or safety to which employees may be exposed while they are at work; (b) assess the risks to health or safety to which employees may be exposed while they are at work; (c) record the significant hazards identified and risks assessed; and (d) make those records available for inspection by employees” (Republic of South Africa, 1996, p. 17). The Act requires mining firms to conduct risk evaluation, containing means and processes to control the hazards identified as likely to cause harm or disease to employees. The joint committee, safety and health representatives, union, or personnel should be consulted on the risk assessment. The employer must identify and mark various hazards as critical, high, moderate, or low risk for this process. Overall, employer hazard audits should be conducted as needed to ensure that the initiatives developed due to the evaluation keep protecting employees.
Risk assessment entails allocating a level of risk to each typical occupational health and safety threat and rating those hazards. Any source of possible damage, harm, or adverse health consequences on anything or someone at work is referred to as a hazard (British Safety Council, n.d.). Risk is commonly defined as the possibility of something occurring that will influence one’s aims (British Safety Council, n.d.). Essentially, it is frequently measured regarding the case of an event and its repercussions. There are two types of risks: inherent and residual (Shackleford & Sales, 2021). Generally, these conditions or situations are referred to be occurrences when they manifest in a way that jeopardizes the health and safety of workers.
Most safety organizations have recommended a five-step process for completing a risk assessment. Essentially, this serves as a helpful checklist for ensuring that the evaluation is thorough enough. First, it entails recognizing potential hazards and who might be injured by them. Additionally, it comprises assessing risk (severity and possibility) and appropriate safeguards in place. It also requires putting in place controls and keeping track of your findings. Finally, it involves analyzing the evaluation and, if necessary, re-assessing. The use of a conventional likelihood and risk matrix, along with a set of graduated descriptors that represent the whole range of possibilities, is a popular and accepted approach for accomplishing this (British Safety Council, n.d.). The term ‘likelihood’ refers to the probability of an event occurring, whereas ‘consequence’ refers to the outcome of an occurrence stated quantitatively in terms of a loss, injury setback, or missed chances.
Workplaces must establish the necessary measures to minimize or lessen the risk associated with a hazard once recognized. Activities, procedures, physical equipment or items, and systems can all be used as controls. Regulations are sometimes classified as critical or non-critical and as preventing. For instance, reducing the possibility of an undesirable event or mitigating, minimizing, or eliminating the consequences of an adverse outcome. Generally, it is crucial to remember that these consequences might affect mineworkers and the surrounding environment, for example, people of regions near the mine (Tubis et al., 2020). Therefore, the mining industry has adapted and developed various monitoring and evaluation ideas for several years.
Risk Evaluation and Estimation Example: Case Study
According to the extract case study, South Africa has long been the largest and most powerful mining nation developing cutting-edge technology for extracting mineral resources. On the other side, the magnitude of the illness burden created due to these mining endeavors has been a neglected epidemic. The government and employers agreed to set up a commission to investigate these conditions under relentless pressure from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The Leon Commission of Inquiry was the first in more than 30 years to look into occupational health and safety in the SA mining industry (Klass Looch Associates, 1995). There had never been a Commission with such broad terms of reference to investigate all areas of OHS regulation. According to the Committee, nearly 69,000 mineworkers perished, and over a million were severely hurt in the first 93 years of this century (Klass Looch Associates, 1995). The likelihood descriptors rated from 5 to 1 (descending order) are represented in Table 1 below.
Table 1: Likelihood Descriptors
|Almost certainly||5||“Injuries and deaths occurred at or in underground mines (99%).”|
|Very likely||4||“gold mines are the most dangerous, accounting for 85,6% of all reported injuries and 72,7% of all reported fatalities.” |
61,7% of gold mining fatalities were due to underground rock bursts or rockfalls
|Unlikely||2||“coal industry is responsible for 15,4% of all mining fatalities.”|
|Rare||–||Less than 5% (none reported)|
Table 2: Consequence Descriptors
|Minor||–||First aid (none)|
|Low||–||No injury (none)|
The risk matrix can be used to assess the amount of risk associated with each event once the likelihood and consequences have been determined. After each occurrence has been assigned a level of risk, it can be sorted to decrease danger. Critical risk ranges between (20-25), high (12-16), moderate (5-10), and low (1-4). The risk level displayed in each box in the risk matrix is calculated by multiplying the probability rating by the repercussion value of the event. Therefore, Table 2 below shows the possible risk matrix for the mine.
Table 3: Likelihood versus consequence
|Low –||Minor –||Moderate –||Major 4||Extreme 5|
|Almost Certain 5||–||–||–||20 (critical)||25 (critical)|
|Very likely 4||–||–||–||16 (high)||20 (critical)|
|Unlikely 2||–||–||–||8 (moderate)||10 (moderate)|
Underground gold mines are the most hazardous activity, based on the risk assessment of all of the possible risks indicated for the mine. According to Klass Looch Associates’ (1995) report, for every 1000 mineworkers subjected to underground risk labor, 1,54 were killed and 25,8 were severely injured. Four critical cases based on the matrix need to be addressed because they can lead to fatalities and serious injuries. These include underground sites, gold mines, rock bursts, and rockfalls. On the other hand, coal mine is considered moderate or unlikely to occur.
Risk management is the continuous observation and modification of measures that have been implemented to mitigate the risk linked with a health and safety issue after hazards have been recognized and evaluated. According to MHSA, “Every employer, after consulting the health and safety committee at the mine, must determine all measures, including changing the organization of work and the design of safe systems of work, necessary to- (a) eliminate any recorded risk; (b) control the risk at source; (c) minimize the risk; and (d) in so far as the risk remains- (i). provide for personal protective equipment; and (ii). institute a program to monitor the risk to which employees may be exposed” (Republic of South Africa, 1996, p. 17). If it can be demonstrated that eliminating a danger does not introduce new, serious risk, eradication measures may be the recommended type of control. Sometimes tools and equipment or working practices with high-risk concerns may be substituted with alternative gear or procedures that remove or minimize the chances of the hazards. A change in technique to prevent the danger of a specific type of underground failure mechanism or a modification in transport vehicles designed to eliminate the chances are examples of such interventions.
Monitoring and Review
A risk monitoring and review procedure must be designed to ensure that the control measures are still effective, keeping the risk of exposure to acceptable levels. According to MHSA, “Every employer must- (a) periodically review the hazards identified and risks assessed to determine whether further elimination, control and minimization of risk are possible; and (b) consult with the health and safety committee on the review” (Republic of South Africa, 1996, p. 18). Generally, hazards must be reviewed to ensure that the efficacy of countermeasures is not compromised by changing situations.
Overall, each employer is responsible for ensuring that regulatory standards for risk assessment and management are followed. According to MHSA regulation, the company must disclose the documented risk evaluation results to the collaborative safety and health representative, if any. Also, employers are obligated to engage with the panel to establish and maintain steps to remove or control the hazards and possible dangers detected in a risk assessment, if possible. The optimum time to identify such controls is during the design phase of a process or piece of equipment.
British Safety Council (n.d.) Risk Assessments: what they are, why they’re important and how to complete them. Web.
Klass Looch Associates, (1995) Leon Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry. Web.
Mining Review Africa. (2020) Mining health safety – 7 common risks to protect yourself against. Web.
The Republic of South Africa, (1996) Mine Health and Safety Act 29 of 1996. Web.
The Republic of South Africa, (1997) Mine Health and Safety Amendment Act 72 of 1997 | South African Government. Web.
The Republic of South Africa, (2002) Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 | South African Government. Web.
The Republic of South Africa, Skills Development Amendment Act 31 of 2003. Web.
The Republic of South Africa, (2009) Mine Health and Safety Amendment Act 74 of 2008. Web.
Shackleford, D. & Sales, F. (2021) What is the residual risk? how is it different from inherent risk? Web.
Tubis, A., Werbińska-Wojciechowska, S. & Wroblewski, A. (2020) ‘Risk assessment methods in mining industry—a systematic review,’ Applied Sciences, 10(15), p.5172.